Rest and Digest

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

Despite knowing that it’s winter; cold, dark and “normal” to slow down this time of year, I often fall into the trappings of the mind assuming my energy should be the same all year long. Unless you have seasonal work or are retired, most of us continue to work the same hours at our jobs, run the same errands, keep the same schedule with childcare and attempt to maintain the same routines.  Treating ourselves as if we are energetically the same in every season comes at the cost of our natural internal rhythm. When we do not cooperate with our internal rhythms its like swimming against the current and life gets very tiring.

So how do we slow down in the winter if we are required to keep the same schedule as if it was spring? For these kind of answers we can rely on our intuition and  wisdom traditions.  In the wisdom tradition of Traditional Chinese medicine(TCM) winter represent the most YIN aspect of the year. Yin is our  dark, cold, slow, inward energy. This can be compared to YANG energy which is upmost during Summer, light, warm, fast, outward energy.  Winter is the time for your diet and activities to nourish your yin energy.  In TCM, each organ is associated with a season and the Kidneys are associated with Winter. The Kidneys in TCM hold our most basic and fundamental energy(they are like your bodies battery). Rest is very important for charging your batteries, this is why we crave it more in the winter and why some animals hibernate. This is also the time to look inward, taking time to be reflective in a stillness practice such as meditation or journaling, . Allowing ourselves to rest and store our energy nourishes the kidneys and charges your energy battery. This can be likened to the trees and plants that send their energy down into their roots.

Translating this wisdom into our modern lives and daily practice is the challenge. I believe that giving yourself the  permission to go slower and expect less external work to be done is the first place to start with nourishing your Yin. This simple yet profound practice of participating with nature allows you to make smarter choices with your energy.  The next piece is minimizing extra commitments, this is the not the time of year to say yes to more things to do. Say yes to yourself, to doing less, sleeping more and being reflective.  Diet and exercise always plays a big part in our lives. Choose foods that are in season and cooked slowly for a long time.  Winter roots, soups, bone broth and herb tonics our food for the soul and kidneys. Be willing to change up your exercise routine on behalf of the season. Perhaps you do the same exercise but in a different way. Prioritize your sleep! If you miss sleep find a way to catch up the next night or over the weekend.

Taking the time during winter to rest and digest allows you to grow strong during the rest of the year and have plenty of energy.

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Fertility Enhancement and Chinese medicine

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

baby feetMany women get pregnant easily and many do not. Research estimates that 1 in 6 couples in the US struggle with getting pregnant. Optimizing the likelihood of getting pregnant and staying pregnant is an area where the tools of Chinese medicine have something special to offer. Rather than looking at fertility challenges as simply a problem with ovaries, or a specific hormone, Chinese medicine approaches fertility as a women’s natural state of balance. Compromised fertility results from imbalances within the network of organs, hormones, and energy systems of the body.

It is very common these days to combine Western and Eastern fertility treatments. Women and men often look toward Western medicine first believing that there must be something really wrong with them and sometimes there is. The bigger the barrier to getting pregnant the more successful Western treatment tends to be: for example with blocked fallopian tubes, prolific endometriosis, or very compromised sperm the diagnostics and surgeries offered can greatly enhance the outcome. In cases if ovulation issues or symptomatic menstrual cycles fertility drugs can make drastic impact. The assisted reproductive technologies of IUI(intrauterine insemination) and IVF(in vitro fertilization) can be the answer for couples with greatly compromised sperm, same sex couples, or simply successful when nothing else works for no known reason. The cost and side effects of these treatments are significant, rarely covered by insurance, and plain stressful.

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Lower Your Internal Thermostat

It seems that everyone is talking about the weather these days. We all know that summer is the season of heat. This is great if you want to go swimming or play in the river, but it can be quite distracting if you are doing most other outdoor activities. Chinese medicine focuses a lot of attention on the internal body temperature. Unlike the western approach of using a thermometer to determine the body temperature, Chinese medicine pays greater attention to how a person feels subjectively about their temperature. In other words, does a patient feel hot or cold, or are they generally comfortable. Temperature is such an important subject in Chinese medical treatment that it is one of the primary 8 principles used to diagnose and treat any illness.

On hot days, it is natural to feel warmer in response to the temperature of our surroundings. It is also expected that when the weather turns cooler our bodies would feel cooler as well. But these tendencies can be influenced by our internal balance. If we are cold internally, then colder weather can exacerbate cold symptoms, leading to a feeling of chilliness, nasal discharge, frequent colds, diarrhea, frequent urination, or digestive problems. If we have “internal heat” in the body, then the warm days may effect us more intensely, leading to symptoms of headaches, increased sweating, red eyes, irritability, dryness, skin rashes/itchiness, constipation, urinary difficulty, digestive complaints, or bleeding problems.

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